Steel Magnolia, Stellar Advocate
Ann Warner can glide gracefully from the tea table to the boardroom to the media stand, all without breaking a sweat. She can charm the socks off a combatant in one breath and deepen the support of a follower in the next. Ann is a Southerner who cherishes her roots (Georgia and North Carolina) and serves as a proud ambassador for southern hospitality. She has spent the majority of her career in the trenches of the fights for women’s rights, working with grace, aplomb and intelligence.
Ann first left the South to attend Wellesley, where she earned a degree in English. After college, she returned to Atlanta and took a fundraising job with AID Atlanta. Seeking a more global platform, she later joined CARE USA, also located in Atlanta. While spending her 25th birthday in Malawi with people suffering tremendously from a drought, the impact of the circumstances of one’s birth struck her hard. She became firmly committed to deploy her intelligence, skills and passion to work alongside women and girls to build a better world.
Shifting her career from development to policy, Ann earned dual degrees from Columbia University: a Master of Public Health (MPH), with a concentration in Forced Migration and Health and a Master of International Affairs (MIA), with a concentration in Economic and Political Development. After graduation Ann consulted to and was eventually hired by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) which conducts empirical research to advocate for practical ways to empower women and girls around the world. Serving as a special assistant to the CEO Geeta Rao Gupta, Ann learned how to manage a nonprofit, deal with a board, lead teams and make effective decisions.
In late 2015 Ann received the opportunity to put the lessons she had learned from Geeta into effect when she accepted an offer to become the CEO of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN), a start-up advocacy organization in Columbia, SC focused on rights for women and girls. She is leading a team of eight which has, as she says, “plenty to do.” WREN’s mission is to advance the health, economic well-being and rights of women, girls and their families in South Carolina. WREN strives to be the voice for South Carolina’s women and girls by advocating for legal and policy changes to enhance the status of women and the well-being of families; educating policymakers and the public; and empowering women, men and young people to speak up and speak out for a better South Carolina.
Ann is married to Cody Towles, who is also an internationalist and works for the Millennium Challenge Corporation. They have two sons who are busy exploring their neighborhood on bikes, Big Wheels and knees.